The path to success can sometimes be a difficult one. College students have packed schedules. Classes, employment, and family or social obligations tend to take over calendars quickly; however, just as it’s important to set aside time for rest, it’s also important to exercise. Scientific studies show that regular exercise provides students with important cognitive benefits that could have positive effects on their scholarly efforts.1 Read more below to find out 4 reasons students should make time to exercise:
- Heightened Focus
New “challenges,” such as physical activity, social opportunities, and increased learning can stimulate the production of new cells in the brain. A combination of all of those things can improve concentration, help keep the mind focused, and ultimately, boost work productivity and academic success in students. Research out of Michigan State University (MSU) found a link between exercise and higher GPAs in college students.2 Researchers also found that students who had gym memberships were less likely to drop out of school.2
- Elevated Mood /Lower Stress
Being an online student isn’t easy. Planning and studying require prioritization and can feel overwhelming. Data by the Harvard School of Public Health Study of College Health Behaviors concluded that frequent physical activity had significant effects on students’ mood, stress levels, and social interactions.3 Students who were social and exercised three or more times per week reported somewhat better moods and decreased amounts of stress than those who did not.3 Regular exercise has been shown to help improve mood and attitude, and relieve tension and stress in students.1 Prolonged periods of stress have negative effects on the body and mind—exercise combats those by assisting with sleep/wake cycles, which ultimately eases anxiety, and may alleviate larger health problems down the road.
- Increased Energy
In other studies, scientists examined the effect exercise had on the brains of mice, and learned that daily workouts replenished their brain energy stores and also gave them extra energy, particularly in the areas of the brain that have to do with cognitive thinking.4 It may seem counterproductive, but expending energy in exercise can actually give students the boost they need to be more proficient in their studies.
- Sharper Memory
Exercise can increase the number of brain cells in the hippocampus, which controls the formation, retention and recall of memories – essential for students in learning. In most adults, the hippocampus starts to shrink in the late twenties, leading to memory loss over time. A study at University of Illinois, as mentioned in an article by the New York Times, showed that exercise prevents this shrinkage, and in turn, promotes regrowth.5 Remember the mice?
In conjunction to a healthy diet and an adequate amount of sleep each night, regular exercise contributes to a well-rounded lifestyle—and there are many ways to sneak it in! Whether you enjoy running, lifting weights, yoga or taking regular walks around a neighborhood park; exercise can be more fun with a friend or family member. Join a community league, do your online homework at the gym, or standing at your desk during online classes. The options are endless, and the mental and physical results are worth it.
1. Weir, Kirsten. “The Exercise Effect.” American Psychological Association. December 2011. Accessed November 28, 2017. http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/12/exercise.aspx
2. Bushak, Lecia. “Spending Time At The Gym Linked To Higher GPAs In College Students: The Mental Benefits Of Working Out.” Medical Daily. July 14, 2017. Accessed November 28, 2017. http://www.medicaldaily.com/spending-time-gym-linked-higher-gpas-college-students-mental-benefits-working-out-292730
3. San Luis, Natalie. “Exercise Key to Better Moods, Less Stress for College Students: Study.” Huffington Post. September 16, 2013. Accessed November 28, 2017. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/16/exercise-stress-college-students-moods_n_3936303.html
4. Reynolds, Gretchen. “How Exercise Fuels the Brain.” New York Times. February 22, 2012. Accessed November 28, 2017. https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/22/how-exercise-fuels-the-brain/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0
5. Reynolds, Gretchen. “How Exercise Could Lead to a Better Brain.” New York Times. April 18, 2012. Accessed November 28, 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/magazine/how-exercise-could-lead-to-a-better-brain.html
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